Stretch It Out With the Longest Words in the English Language

Monday, March 22 min read

Believe it or not, "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" is not the longest word in the dictionary. That honor belongs to "pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis," which has 45 letters and describes a lung disease from inhaling volcano silica particles. Fun fact: Your doctor won't recognize this word, because it was created to imitate overly long and confusing medical terms. Lucky for you, we have a handy guide to some of the most sesquipedalian (long) words outside of the fields of science and medicine.


Your nephew’s ragged childhood comic collection probably qualifies for this word, which is the act of declaring something as valueless. Of course, with this many syllables, the word itself is somewhat valueless as almost no one uses it.


When this word was coined, it was like a rebellion against a rebellion. As citizens demanded that governments remove state support for churches (in particular Anglican churches), this countermovement sprang up to oppose the separation of church and state.


This word, which refers to something that’s unintelligible, difficult, or hard to understand, actually is in use. For example, you could cry, “All of these incomprehensibilities are making it hard for me to choose.”


It may be out of date, but this elegant word is seen in Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost to describe someone who acts in a valiant or honorable way. Another point of pride: It's the longest word in the English language composed only of alternating consonants and vowels.


If you have a friend who’s suddenly into fine wines and artisanal honey since they moved to a luxury building, they’ve likely embraced "embourgeoisement," meaning a shift to bourgeois (or upper crust) values and practices.


Sure, it doesn’t look or sound all that attractive, but this lengthy word means physically beautiful. It comes from the Latin pulcher, meaning beautiful, a root word that has largely disappeared from modern English.


Here’s a linguist’s favorite joke. This extended word literally means the fear of long words. And given that it has a whopping 35 letters, we can’t say we blame those folks.


Concocted in the 1950s during the rise of psychedelic drugs, this cerebral name refers to a psychotic alteration of the brain — likely by drugs or chemicals.

Methionylthreonylthreonyglutaminylarginyl … isoleucine

We said no science or medicine words, but the true longest word in English is the chemical name for titin, a protein found in muscle fibers. It will take you an astonishing 3.5 hours to pronounce the 189,819 letters (189,768 of which are hiding in the ellipsis) — or so goes the Guinness World Record for saying it.

Photo credit: Sarah8000/ iStock

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